Vanasse first lacrosse All-American
When Alec Vanasse first started playing lacrosse, he looked at it as just another sport.
Today, he's preparing to take his skills to North Dakota State University to play collegiate lacrosse for the Bison.
Vanasse, a 2012 graduate of Hudson High School, was a member of the first boys' team ever sponsored by the Hudson Area Lacrosse Association in 2009. The team needed to pull in players from Stillwater just to fill out its roster and finished the season with a record of 0-10.
By 2010 the team reached the state quarterfinals in the grade 9-10 division of the Minnesota Boys Scholastic Lacrosse Association. In 2011 the team moved up to varsity status and made it to the state quarterfinals again, losing in overtime to the eventual state champs.
This past season the team posted a record of 9-1, with its only loss again coming to the eventual state champions.
"Everyone stuck with it and we got progressively better," Vanasse said.
Vanasse's improvement mirrored the improvement of the team. The defender was named to the All-MBSLA East All-Conference team as a junior and repeated the honor this year while adding All-MBSLA All-State and All-American honors. He is the first All-American in the history of the Hudson Area Lacrosse Association.
His play began attracting the attention of college coaches over a year ago, and he will take his skills to North Dakota State University to play for the Bison this fall.
Vanasse said he never considered college lacrosse when he first took up the sport.
"My first year I didn't really think about it; it was just another sport to play," he said. "But starting in my sophomore year I got the hang of it and had my mind set on playing somewhere. My junior year I started getting calls from schools."
Following his stellar junior season, Vanasse was invited last summer to play for the Lakeshore Lakers, an elite Minnesota developmental team coached by Joe Cinosky. Cinosky was an All-American at the University of Maryland and won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2010 World Games. He has played professionally with the Minnesota Swarm and Denver Outlaws and is a coach at the University of Minnesota.
"We traveled to Sonoma, Calif. for the Adrenaline Sonoma Shootout Tournament," Vanasse said. "I also got to play out east at John Hopkins University on their home field. That was one of my best experiences, playing against some of the top guys in the nation."
Once the prospect of playing lacrosse in college became a reality, Vanasse said he began fielding calls from coaches across the country.
"A lot of school contacted me," he said. "I think the schools out east knew about me from playing in tournaments there, and the Midwest coaches all talk to each other. I never really knew where I wanted to go. One day the North Dakota State coach called my dad and invited me to come up and visit and play with the team on their recruit day. I liked the guys on the team, I liked the campus, and I liked the school. I'm not just going there for lacrosse."
He said he was tempted by some of the offers from the east coast schools, but decided to stick closer to home.
"I didn't really want to go that far and play," he said. "The competition here in the Midwest is just as good."
Vanasse credits his coaches in Hudson--Rich Grinstead, Matt Sosse and Jake Johnson--with aiding not only with his development but the growing popularity of lacrosse in Hudson. Since its inception in 2008, the Hudson Area Lacrosse Association has grown from 40 players to over 200.
"They all played club lacrosse at UW-River Falls," he said about his coaches. "They have been with us the whole time since we started."
Vanasse said he would love to see lacrosse become a varsity program at Hudson High School, but very few teams in Wisconsin sponsor the sport.
"That's what we're pushing for," he said. "A couple of buddies and I talked to the school about it but there was no interest. That gave us the incentive to go out and prove we have the ability to be a top team. I know it's not the most popular sport around here, but this year we did very well."
Well enough to earn one of its players a spot on one of the top college lacrosse teams in the Midwest nest season.